WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States Navy has called an openly gay sailor back to active duty after dismissing him under the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual service personnel. According to Stars & Stripes newspaper, Petty Officer Jason Knight “came out” to his command and was subsequently discharged from the Navy in 2005. As of May 7, after being recalled to active duty, Knight is finishing a scheduled one-year tour in Kuwait with Naval Customs Battalion Bravo. Up until now, service members discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” have not been allowed to return to the military. The Navy has declined to comment on the case.
Despite being discharged under the U.S. military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy, Petty Officer Jason Knight was recalled to serve in the U.S. Navy.
“Petty Officer Knight’s story shatters the myth that openly gay troops undermine unit cohesion or morale,” said Sharra E. Greer, director of law and policy for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN). “The Pentagon knows full well that lesbians and gays are good service members. If military leaders believe otherwise, then they need to explain why gay troops are being called back to active duty and sent to the frontlines. SLDN applauds the Navy for recognizing Knight’s talent and qualification. Now the time has come to allow every gay service member to serve openly, and to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’”
According to Stars & Stripes, Knight is now serving openly, and sees no reason to hide his sexual orientation. “I spent four years in the Navy, buried fallen service members as part of the Ceremonial Guard, served as a Hebrew linguist in Navy Intelligence, and received awards for exemplary service,” he wrote in a letter to the newspaper. “However, because I was gay, the Navy discharged me and recouped my $13,000 sign-on bonus. Nine months later, the Navy recalled me to active duty. Did I accept despite everything that happened? Of course I did, and I would do it again, because I love the Navy and I love my country. And . . . my shipmates support me.”
In fact, many of Knight’s colleagues spoke out in support of him. “He’s better than the average sailor at his job,” Bill Driver, the leading petty officer of Knight’s 15-person customs crew in Kuwait, told the paper. “It’s not at all a strange situation. As open as he is now, it was under wraps for quite a while. It wasn’t an issue at work.”
“Like Petty Officer Knight, an increasing number of lesbian and gay troops are being welcomed by their colleagues in the armed forces,” said Greer. “It is long past time for official policy to reflect the changing attitudes within the military. Commanders do not want to lose good people to this law and service members do not care if the men and women they work alongside happen to be gay. ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ serves no useful purpose and should be repealed.”
Petty Officer Knight’s current orders call for him to be on active duty until June. Knight told Stars & Stripes that he wants to complete that service and is even looking for ways to return to active duty full time, perhaps through the officers’ candidate school.